I dunno – sitting in the stands watching Auburn’s epic first two scoring drives last Saturday night, I felt grateful every time Malzahn called a rushing play. The Tigers were gaining twice as much yardage on average throwing the ball as they were rushing and Chris Todd started out the evening a perfect 9 for 9.
And the final stats bore that out. Auburn ran the ball 38 times and averaged three yards per carry. Each of its 28 pass attempts averaged 8.5 yards. And Todd only missed eight times on the evening.
So when I read what’s coming,
Georgia’s defense is in the middle of a gauntlet to end its regular season that will test what it’s made of. Auburn, Kentucky and Georgia Tech rank 12th, 17th and second nationally in rushing offense…
it’s sort of a mixed bag, to tell you the truth. These teams are going to do what they do best, but in so doing, it means they’re getting away from the weaker side of the Dawg defense (Georgia is 60th in passing defense nationally and 34th in rushing defense).
Given that UK’s starting a true freshman quarterback who’s averaging 66 yards per game against conference opponents, the Wildcats may not have much choice but to push the running game. But if you believe Martinez, based on what he was able to do against Auburn, that may be a good thing.
Georgia players have reason to be confident about their run defense after holding Auburn to 115 yards rushing. They did it without having to bring safeties down much in the box for run support.
“We felt good about our front four, and we did some things where we said they’ve just got to control the line of scrimmage,” defensive coordinator Willie Martinez said. “We have a lot of confidence in them, and it allowed us to play more coverage to their play-action.”
One thing’s for sure, Kade Weston is right about his mates when he says, “(i)f you can’t stop the run, you ain’t going to win.” That’s been borne out this season.
Georgia has stopped the run much better in its win than its losses.
The four biggest rushing outputs by opponents this season came in losses: Oklahoma State had 172, LSU 156, Tennessee 162 and Florida 210.
That’s an average of 175 yards compared to 83.3 yards in Georgia’s six wins.
The situational stats don’t show too many flaws overall. The biggest hole in the run defense appears to occur when the opponent crosses midfield but hasn’t reached the red zone. Georgia gives up a fair amount of big plays in that area of the field for some reason.
Kentucky is averaging over 200 yards per game rushing. More impressively, that number isn’t related to whether the ‘Cats are playing in conference or not. So, while I’ll start by watching Georgia’s turnover margin tomorrow – as always – it looks like the success of UK’s running game may be the next biggest factor to keep an eye on in seeing if the Dawgs can wrap up a second place finish in the SEC East.